Before hiring Robin Ventura, White Sox GM Kenny Williams said he considered Paul Konerko as player-manager—Chicago Tribune Story.
It would’ve been great theatre for the White Sox and baseball in general, but the chances of it working out well were nearly non-existent.
The last player-manager was Pete Rose and he actually handled it effectively in 1984-1985; but by 1986, he was still writing his own name in the lineup semi-regularly when he shouldn’t have been.
Prior to that, Don Kessinger managed the White Sox in 1979 as an active player, resigned as manager and was replaced by Tony LaRussa in early August and retired as a player the same day. I doubt these were his decisions.
Joe Torre stepped right off the field and into the manager’s seat for the Mets in 1977 while he was still on the roster, but he didn’t play very much after that.
Rose, Kessinger and Torre were at the end of the line in their careers; Konerko is still an MVP-caliber player who’s got $25.5 million remaining on his contract through 2013.
If you combine the pressure Konerko would be under as the star player on a team with onerous contracts and expectations to win, along with the relentless attention from the media and fans and the news cycle being so explosive in today’s atmosphere, there’s no way it would succeed.
If he was slumping, what would he do? Bench himself? Is he supposed to say, “I can’t bench me because I’m one of the highest paid players on the team with a history of massive production”?
Athletes have a very high opinion of themselves. Even the most thoughtful and reasonable have to be told that they’re done before realizing it; this is independent of how respected and mature they are. For Konerko to do both jobs and do them correctly would take a level of objectivity and rationality that no human being could achieve.
Ozzie Guillen was a pal to many of the players, playing cards and socializing with them and it worked for the most part; but for an active player to be an important participant in the group dynamic and their boss? Impossible.
A player-manager can only work if the player is closing in on his final days, and Konerko is still a top-tier player.
It would’ve been entertaining and typical of Williams to do something so far outside the box that it belonged in Doc Brown’s DeLorean and ended up in 1937, but it was a fleeting idea that they—the White Sox, Williams and Konerko—are lucky was only that, an idea.
They may not do much better with Robin Ventura as manager than they would’ve with Konerko, but it’s better this way for Konerko’s sanity as much as anything else.